Stuart Rothenberg basically does a number on John Edwards today over at Real Clear Politics. It is the most harsh a look at Edwards that I have seen recently. Rothenberg asks if the Democrats really want a bullying divider as their candidate.
While the Democratic race has often, and quite accurately, been described as a choice between change (Barack Obama and John Edwards) and experience (Hillary Rodham Clinton), it has, in the final days before Iowa, become another kind of choice as well.
Democrats must decide whether they want a candidate who is angry and confrontational, and who sees those favoring compromise as traitors (Edwards), or a candidate who presents himself as a uniter (Obama), or a candidate who presents herself as someone who understands the ways of Washington and can get things done (Clinton).
While Clinton and Obama both acknowledge the importance of working with various interests, including Capitol Hill Republicans and the business community, to come up with solutions to key problems, Edwards sounds more and more like the neighborhood bully who plans to dictate what is to be done.
The former North Carolina senator is running a classic populist campaign that would have made William Jennings Bryan (or Ralph Nader) proud. Everything is Corporate America's fault. But he's also portraying himself as fighting for the middle class and able to appeal to swing voters and even Republicans in a general election.
Edwards certainly would dispute that there is an inherent contradiction between his populist rhetoric and his alleged middle class appeal. But his approach to problems is likely to frighten many voters, including most middle class Americans and virtually all Republicans.
Ouch. This actually reads as highly partisan – although Rothenberg usually tries not to go there. Or at least not this openly, I guess. Kind of interesting coming from him. He states, flatly, that an Edwards presidency would tear the nation apart. Read the whole thing, see if you read it the same way I do. (For the record, I personally don't like Edwards and don't think he will take the nomination.) My guess is that Rothenberg will not be welcome anywhere near the Edwards campaign after this column.